Today, LDF and a coalition of civil rights, public interest, voting rights, and other organizations, sent a letter urging social media companies to take immediate steps to curb the spread of voting disinformation in the midterms and future elections and to help prevent the undermining of our democracy. This letter is a follow up to another sent last May. Many companies have announced updates to their voter interference and disinformation policies in recent weeks but the policies have little effect unless enforced continually and consistently.
The groups urge the companies to make the following changes ahead of the November 8, 2022 Election:
Combatting the ‘Big Lie’: The Big Lie, the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Trump, is now embedded in our political discourse. Candidates are continuing to use the Big Lie as a platform plank to preemptively declare voter fraud in order to dispute the results of the 2022 election.
Platform civic integrity policies that focus only on the current election cycle and fail to combat the Big Lie are ineffective. Platforms must be much more vigilant and take immediate steps to remove and curb disinformation that spreads and amplifies the Big Lie.
Preventing disinformation targeting non-English speaking communities: Non-English language disinformation has continued to spread beyond the 2020 election. The language gap between content moderators and content has created enforcement disparities, leaving non-English speaking communities vulnerable to false claims and disinformation. The updated policies from your companies have little or no information on specifically curbing non-English disinformation, particularly in languages beyond Spanish.
Social media companies must invest more resources towards preventing the spread of non-English disinformation. All users should be able to use platforms without being inundated by election disinformation regardless of the languages they speak. Non-English content moderation teams must also have the cultural context and competency to accurately and adequately implement and enforce content moderation policies.
More friction to reduce the distribution of content containing electoral disinformation: Some steps taken by some of your companies to implement friction and similar features just before and after the 2020 election. There is little discussion in the updated policies about taking any of these steps for the midterms. There is mention in the updated policies about the use of labeling to address disinformation, but details on how this would work are scant. While misleading claims should be appropriately labeled to provide context, a growing body of research shows that information-only labels are largely ineffective to halt the spread of disinformation.
We have discussed more comprehensive plans with your companies to reduce the distribution of electoral disinformation, including implementing front- and back-end friction in user interfaces, algorithms, and product design to proactively reduce mis/disinformation. This may include modifications to demote or downrank this content and limit users’ ability to engage with it. For example, viral circuit breakers can be utilized to limit the spread of potential disinformation.
Read the full letter here.
Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.